UN chief, Europe, India welcome Israel-UAE deal, suspended annexation plans

United Nations secretary general says he hopes accord will help achieve two-state solution; British prime minister calls it ‘hugely good news’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to The Associated Press, in Lahore, Pakistan, February 18, 2020. (K.M. Chaudhry/AP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to The Associated Press, in Lahore, Pakistan, February 18, 2020. (K.M. Chaudhry/AP)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he hoped the Israel-UAE deal will help realize a two-state solution with the Palestinians for peace in the Middle East.

Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize ties in the landmark deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation, in which Israel also pledged to suspend plans for annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Guterres said annexation would “effectively close the door” on negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and “destroy the prospect” of a viable Palestinian state under a two-state solution.

“The secretary-general will continue to work with all sides to open further possibilities for dialogue, peace and stability,” Guterres’s spokesman said.

The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay E. Mladenov, welcomed the deal in a statement on his Twitter page.

“It stops Israeli annexation plans, which the UN has consistently called for. I hope it will create opportunities for Israeli and Palestinian re-engagement. The UN will work with all for dialogue, peace and stability,” Mladenov wrote.

Berlin said it welcomed the “historic” deal, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas calling it “an important contribution to peace in the region.”

He added: “We hope that this agreement will be the starting point for further positive developments in the region and that it will give fresh momentum to the Middle East peace process.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the accord “hugely good news.”

“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East,” Johnson said.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London on July 1, 2020. (Ben Stansall/AFP)

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “Today’s agreement between Israel and the UAE is a much-needed boost for peace. Welcome the suspension of annexation plans and normalization of relations between two great friends of the UK. Time for direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel, the only route to lasting peace.”

France welcomed the deal, stressing the suspension of Israel’s plans to annex swaths of the West Bank.

“The decision taken within this framework by the Israeli authorities to suspend the annexation of Palestinian territories is a positive step, which must become a definitive measure,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

India also welcomed the deal and called for a resumption of peace talks.

“India continues its traditional support for the Palestinian cause. We hope to see an early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution,” said a spokesperson for India’s External Affairs Ministry.

China said it was “happy to see measures that are helping to ease tensions between countries in the Middle East and promoting regional peace and stability.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing hopes “relevant parties will take concrete actions to bring the Palestinian issue back to the track of dialogue and negotiation on an equal footing at an early date.”

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden welcomed the deal and said it will help ease tensions in the region.

“Today, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have taken a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East,” the former vice president and foreign policy stalwart said in a statement about the deal.

“The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship” that will help ensure Israel remains an “integral” part of the Middle East, he said.

“Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president,” Biden said. “It would virtually end any chance of a two-state solution.”

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday blasted the deal, called for the United Arab Emirates to “immediately retract” its agreement, and branded the accord a “betrayal” and “despicable decision.”

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